War of the Rebellion: Serial 012 Page 0239 Chapter XXIII. GENERAL REPORTS.

Search Civil War Official Records

of six repeating stations was made. The officers were kept constantly on these stations. Messages were transmitted to and from the front over this line with reasonable rapidity and accuracy. There were no great movements of the enemy visible from the station of observation, and there was little to report. The chief value of this line, as of the other repeating lines established at Wiliamsburg and White House during the march of the army, was in the practice and consequent skill which work upon them gave the officers on stations.

From headquarters camp at Cold harbor parties were sent out to reconnoiter the course of the Chickahominy from Boottom's Bridge to New Bridge, and to select those prominent points which might serve in case of need as communicating stations. These parties were instructed to also note prominent points in view on the southerly side of the Chickahominy. The knowledge of the country gained by them showed it practicable to communicate by signals between the portions of the army occupying the northern and those at this time on the southern side of the Chickahominy. The stations would be, however, some distance to the rear of the advance on both sides of the river, and that on the south side of the Chickahominy near to the railroad, on which a line of electric telegraph was the building. It was not thought worth the while to occupy them.

From Cold Harbor the insulated wire of the field telegraph was run out a distance of two miles for one day to a point near the headquarters of the advance guard. These headquarters moving, it was reeled up on the same day.


Early in the afternoon on the 24th of May our artillery opened upon the enemy for the first time on this part of our lines at New Bridge. The fire, sustained for some time, elicited no response. During its progress the advance guard, under General Stoneman, with a brigade under General Davidson, moved toward the village of Mechanicsville, then known to be held by a force of the enemy. The artillery joined the column on the march.

A detachment of seven signal officers, hastily collected from stations in the vicinity, moved with our forces. From the upper story of Austin's house, a dwelling located on a high bank on the east side of Beaver Dam, a first view was caught of the enemy on the other side of the Chickahominy, near Mechanicsville Bridge, and of the spires of Richmond.

Before the fact that the enemy was visible could be announced to the commanding general the head of the column, ascending on the Mechanicsville road to the crest on the west side of Beaver Dam, was received by a discharge of the enemy's artillery, and the engagement was commenced. At the same time a battery of two guns, stationed on the south side of the Chickahominy near a foot bridge, opened in a vain attempt to reach the left of our line near Austin's house, on the east side of Beaver Dam. It was not known what force of the enemy might be near this battery. A signal officer was stationed on the left of our lines to watch it and report by signals any movement of the enemy in that direction to another officer stationed near the battery engaging the enemy on the west side of Beaver Dam, and also to another officer stationed with the battery firing from near Austin's house. The skirmish was of short duration. Our troops were hardly deployed in line of battle when the enemy's fire ceased, and they retreated to Mechanicsville.